Remember this from my first post?:
“So as this book progresses, a time does come, perhaps a little later than you’d like, where this generous relenting begins. There is an illuminating breakthrough moment. And you’ll know it when you see it. Don’t go looking for it though; it will find you. Once you happen upon it, you’ll probably start flipping back to fit all the pieces together, derailing your reading progress for a bit. That’s okay. You should totally do it. I did.”
And so, I’m interested to hear your experiences from this week, because finally, a quarter way through the book, we’re given the Rosetta Stone on page 223, the Chronology of Organization of North American Nations’ Revenue-Enhancing Subsidized Time™, By Year. Everything makes sense now, yes? We now know that the novel’s opening scene with Hal in the Deans interview is the last chronological thing we’ve seen so far, and that Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment in which most of the action we’ve seen so far precedes it. We’re now trying to put together what actually happens to Hal in that scene. Was it the incredibly potent DMZ that Pemulis procured in this week’s reading? The mould Hal ingested in the page 10-11 flashback? Something else we haven’t encountered yet? Anyway, things are easier from this point on. I echo Jenny’s observation from the roundtable on Saturday that if you’ve made it this far, you should be in good shape to finish. So congratulations.
I unfortunately had to miss the video discussion last Saturday, but Mark’s question about humor in the book would have elicited this from me: the puking story on 233 with the high-class food and the ipecac’d brandy, “everyone, all over, spouting like whales. I’d heard the term projectile vomiting but I never thought that I—you could aim, the pressure was such that you could aim.” Plus also the puking field pathologist on 253, the puking Peemster on 262, and J.O.I. and Joelle in Toronto stopping cabs mid-ride to evacuate their stomachs on 297.
People who know me well will tell you that the thing that makes me lose it the most, comically, is violent vomiting. Little Britain’s jam-tasting sketch, Tracy Jordan’s Oprah Winfrey cooking show from 30 Rock, the opening scene of Pitch Perfect, this new Ghostbusters trailer I just saw today, and the Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life Mr. Creosote scene, et al., send me into an absolute ecstasy of mirth. (As an aside, I used the restaurant scene from Wallace’s The Broom of the System in my English 11 class a few years ago, wherein Norman Bombardini orders nine steaks. One of the assignment options I gave was for students to create mock social media profiles for him, and some actually made real Facebook accounts for him, using the image of Mr. Creosote, so check those out). And so I’m talking like doubled-over, sucking for oxygen, tears-streaming type mirth. The time I first watched Pitch Perfect, for example, I went back to that scene after it was over and took a picture of the screen with my phone, then laid in bed crying and crying for about twenty minutes that night looking at the photo.
Yes, I’m pretty sophisticated.
Another highlight for me from the roundtable conversation was the discussion of reading this book in public. This was really apt for me, as I recently travelled with my wife Rachel and best friend Nathan to Nicaragua, who were both reading it in the airports and on the flights on the way down. I opted to read it on an iPad on the trip, taking a more covert approach like Ryan talked about. Nothing more embarrassing than three Nucksters sitting in public view, all reading the same brick.
Probably my favorite part of the Saturday conversation was Corrie’s unexpected (for technical audio reasons) interjection of “Mario!” when Mark asked who the favorite characters were, namely because that’s exactly how I would have responded to that prompt from Mark too. Mario slays me, and like Hal notes at one point, for me “Mario floats” (316). I actually wrote an entire chapter of my thesis recently that’s entirely about Mario. The proposal I just submitted for the 2016 Wallace Conference is also a reflection on Mario’s role in the novel. Keep an eye on Mario.
Other highlights from the book for me this week included yet another misconception about Canadians, that we don’t know the true street value of items (as with Pemulis and the Antitoi brothers and the DMZ, “and like fucking Nucksters about almost anything they had no idea what they were in possession of was worth” (215-6)), Winston Churchill’s coining of the “hideously and improbably deformed” phrase (226), the Convexity/Concavity debate at Molly Notkin’s party (234), and mentions of the muddy BC apple juice (228), which I know well.
You gotta try this stuff; it’s unreal.